I need help in selecting a cancer treatment center. What factors should I consider?

Expert Answers

ICAMCancerCenter (Complementary Care Expert (Verified) ) - 04 / 02 / 2011

Hi I'm Gabriella. Part of my role within our organization involves my speaking regularly (almost daily) for the past four years to those facing different types of cancer and at varying stages of the condition. I've gained much knowledge from these people and have been instrumental in also being able to advise or guide these people through their journey.

My experience leads to these conclusions regarding this question: 'what factors should be considered when selecting a cancer treatment center'.

Firstly, it's vital to do your due diligence with regard the legitimacy of any cancer center or physician. The presence of a flashy website or claims of extraordinary technology do not always add up to a legitimate treatment protocol. There are far too many cancer centers making claims that cannot be substantiated – it’s up to you to substantiate them; these centers are allowed to treat patients under certain State guidelines, yet many of them fall between the cracks of the law and go unnoticed, to the detriment of patients. I have unfortunately spoken with many cancer patients or family members who have lost loved ones and also a considerable amount of money due to claims leading to false hope & dire consequences. Understandably, these patients come to me with a sense of dreaded fear that the same thing may happen again. This breaks my heart.

Therefore, the first question one must ask of any cancer center is 'are your doctors licensed to apply these therapies?'. Important question to ask. Many are not. If you can get this answer in writing, all the better.

A list of a few fundamental considerations:
[Please note that these questions should be asked of conventional and unconventional cancer centers alike; both should be accountable. We all too often take conventional medical practice for granted, without asking pertinent questions. Conventional medicine must also be equally accountable for its centers & practice]

~ How successful is the treatment that you will be applying to me? If the answer is 100% successful, you must question the integrity of the center.
~ What are the risks to my health if I choose your center/treatment?
~ Has there ever been any occurrence of death in your center or as a result of your treatment? If so, an explanation in writing would be in order.
~ May I speak directly with the physician who will be treating me? If not, why? You should be able to speak to him/her.
~ Is there any online medical documentation/journals regarding my treatment? If not, why? If so, please give me information so I can check.
~ What is the likely time frame for my treatment? And will I need to return for more?
~ Will I need to change my diet?
~ Will I suffer negative side effects? If so what are they and will your center offer me physical, emotional, practical help through this time? If so, in what way? If not, why?
~ Will your center physician speak with my primary physician & work together with him/her? If not, why?
~ Is there any option for me other than surgery, chemotherapy & radiation therapy? If not, why? Every cancer center should be in a position to be able to at least offer guidance (perhaps not referral, but guidance) to viable treatment options for you. There is more than one way to tackle cancer.
~ Will your center/treatment cure my cancer? This is a vital question! If the answer to this question is 'yes' you must seriously consider the integrity of the center. At this current time and to the very best of my knowledge, there is no cure for cancer which has been made available to the public, therefore any center or physician who answers 'yes' to this question is giving you false hope. The center may have every sincere reason to believe that your treatment with them will indeed bring a 'cure' however, they would be acting in a highly unethical manner in stating to any patient that they will be 'cured' at the center or via their treatment or physicians. An outcome of 'undetectable cancer' is a more suitable answer, however this is still stretching the boundaries of ethics. 'Potential undetectable cancer' is the only real answer for outcome for any cancer patient at this time and to the best of my knowledge. Please stay away from or report any cancer center who is claiming a ‘cure’ at this time.

Having said all of the above, it is of paramount importance that the patient listens to their 'gut' instincts about any cancer center or physician. We cannot ignore our intuition. Your decision must feel comfortable to YOU - not to your daughter or your mother or your husband/wife, cousin or your friend - but to you, the patient. Even if all of the above questions are satisfactorily answered, you must be confident and you must be accountable for the decision you make. It is after-all, your life. Guidance and support from family & friends is wonderful. Decision making is not their responsibility – it is yours.

I hope I’ve been able to help. I feel a deep connection to cancer patients as I’ve heard so many wonderful, and too many very sad stories over the years. The information above has been put together for you, as a direct result of the patients I've spoken with, their families, and the experiences they've all encountered.

There are many viable, highly effective cancer physicians, centers and treatments. It's up to you to ask the right questions and to get the right answers. Always ask 'why'. Never be intimidated by your oncologist. And at the same time, always be aware that your decision needs to be made in a timely manner, because early treatment will lead to a better outcome for you. Please do not allow the decision making process to numb you into a sense of procrastination. Be strong, be positive, be practical, be wise; listen to your heart and go to your selected cancer center with full confidence that you will come out shining! You create your own reality. The center and physicians will work together with you; you are not alone, however you must play the leading role in your own recovery.

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